Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Description: Research ethics in place around psychological studies require that participants be asked for and provide informed consent before they take part in the study. What would you say it mean to provide informed consent? How does this sound? Participants should be provided with a reasonable description of what their participation in the study will include before they are asked in their consent to participate in the study. Sounds reasonable right? How about studies that are going to involve deception, like one’s in which the experimenter is going to give participants false feedback about how they did on an opening test in order to manipulate their mood by telling them did very well or very poorly on the test (when the test was not actually even scored). Would such a study violate the ethical principle of informed consent? Should such studies be allowed, ethically, to proceed? Now how about a real-world example, from the article linked below. Ellen and Frank meet in a night course and have drink a few times after. As the drinks start to feel more like dates Ellen asks Frank if he is married and makes it very clear that she will not participate in adultery.  Frank lies and says he is single when, in fact he is married, and they sleep together. Is Frank guilty of rape (non-consensual sex)? Ellen gave consent to sex, but it was not really informed consent was it? According to law, Frank is not guilty of a crime. What do you make of that and what other situations also skate a bit around the issue of how consent is defined? Think about other possible situations and then read the article linked below for a research-based discussion.

Source: You Were Duped into Saying Yes. Is that Still Consent? Roseanna Sommers, The New York Times.

Date: March 5, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/opinion/sexual-consent.html

So, were you surprised by the results of the research reported upon in the article? Most respondents were only concerned when there was coercion or threats used to obtain sex (and therefore with no consent). Certainly, most people would say at a relationship level that Ellen has powerful reasons for being very angry with Frank but under the law Frank is not chargeable even though Ellen’s consent was not fully informed. The research also shows that this is not simply a legal issue as the majority of participants believed that Ellen’s consent was not vacated by Frank’s lie. That, along with the other examples make for some fascinating opportunities for reflection on the laws and social interaction. Interestingly the ethical work around for actually using, rather than just asking about, deception in a psychology study involves first showing that there is no other way to get the desired data without deception; second, a good argument as to why getting the data is important enough to offset the use of deception and; third, that supports must be made available to participants who are upset or otherwise disoriented by the deception once it is revealed after the participation sessions end the participant is informed at that point of the deception. I am not sure how this makes me think and feel about deception in research (especially when you see that some are wondering is the use of placeboes in double blind studies is a form of deception), though, it has certainly got me thinking about the lack of consequences for uninformed consent issues in relationships like that of Ellen and Frank.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is informed consent and what does it involve in psychological research ethics?
  2. Is the use of deception in psychological research studies something that should be permitted under special circumstances? And if so, what might those circumstances be?
  3. Do you think changes need to be made to our legal definitions of consent across the situations assessed in the search? Why or why not?

References (Read Further):

Sommers, R. (2019). Commonsense consent. Yale LJ, 129, 2232. Link

Eyal, N. (2014). Using informed consent to save trust. Journal of medical ethics, 40(7), 437-444. Link

Beins, B. C. (1993). Using the Barnum effect to teach about ethics and deception in research. Teaching of Psychology, 20(1), 33-35. Link

Miller, F. G., Wendler, D., & Swartzman, L. C. (2005). Deception in research on the placebo effect. PLoS Med, 2(9), e262. Link

Boynton, M. H., Portnoy, D. B., & Johnson, B. T. (2013). Exploring the ethics and psychological impact of deception in psychological research. IRB, 35(2), 7. Link

Athanassoulis, N., & Wilson, J. (2009). When is deception in research ethical?. Clinical Ethics, 4(1), 44-49. Link

Smith, D. (2003). Five principles for research ethics. Monitor on psychology, 34(1), 56. Link

Massoumi, N., Mills, T., & Miller, D. (2020). Secrecy, coercion and deception in research on ‘terrorism’and ‘extremism’. Contemporary Social Science, 15(2), 134-152. Link

 

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Description: A lot of people are not doing very well these days, and this was true even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. We can certainly see that the levels of stress, anxiety and uncertainty in the general population and among young, emerging adults in particular are sky high. Given this I do not imagine that you think it would help to start telling people to just cheer up. However, it may seem like that is what is being suggested when we turn for advice to Laurie Santos at Yale University researcher who studies Happiness and ask her for advice. The study of happiness, however, is not fluffy, cheer up, stuff but is, instead, one of the centerpieces of the rapidly expanding research area known as Positive Psychology. What Laurie Santos has to say about her own and other research can be very helpful these days and, if the interview linked below is not enough then use the link down in the Referenced – Read Further section that you can use to access and take her Yale online course on the subject, for free, a well proceed and timely opportunity.

Source: Laurie Santos: Can we learn how to be happy? Interview with Stephen Sackur, BBC.com

Date: January 30, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by 5688709 from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/cz4pr2gdge5t/psychology Scroll down to the Feb 3 video image and click to play audio interview

Happiness science is a central part of Positive Psychology and the research it has produced over the past 30 years is quite informative and in increasingly offering a lot that we can think about and try as ways of pushing back against the stress, anxiety and uncertainties of life these days. Interested? Check out the course!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What good might come of being somewhat grumpy or somewhat angry more of the time?
  2. What might some of the limitations of all the time positivity be?
  3. What might a balance of positivity and grumpiness look like? How might we manage the balance (and know how to make adjustments to it)?

References (Read Further):

The Science of Wellbeing (The course with Laurie Santos) https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being

Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2012). World happiness report [2012]. Link

Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2005). Happiness research: State and prospects. Review of social economy, 63(2), 207-228. Link

Oishi, S., & Gilbert, E. A. (2016). Current and future directions in culture and happiness research. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, 54-58. Link

Frawley, A. (2015). Happiness research: A review of critiques. Sociology Compass, 9(1), 62-77. Link

Brockmann, H., & Delhey, J. (2010). Introduction: The dynamics of happiness and the dynamics of happiness research. Social Indicators Research, 97(1), 1-5. Link

Posted by & filed under Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Attitude Formation Change, Personality, Persuasion, Social Psychology.

Description: What sorts of people resist Covid-19 related health guidelines such as mask wearing, the use of hand sanitizer when entering public spaces and limits of social gatherings? Ok, Ok, I suspect you may have a few choice words to use in your response to that question but hang on a moment. Understanding more about people who are not inclined to follow public health guidelines during our current pandemic, rather than writing them off with a stream of negative descriptors, could be an important part of coming up with more effective ways to increase compliance with public health guidelines and thus reduce the impact of the current (and future) pandemic(s). Psychology researchers have started to look at this question. Would it surprise you to hear that one of the points of focus in this research is the concept or the subjective dimension of entitlement? That word gets tossed around a lot these days in the media but pause for a moment and think about what it might involve and an individual difference dimension. What would it involve? How would it influence how people react and response to Covid-19 public health guidelines and how might a better understanding of what entitlement involves help us improve overall compliance with public health guidelines? Once you have your hypotheses sorted out have a read through the two articles linked below that discuss recent Psychological research into entitlement and Covid-19 related public health guideline compliance (or the lack thereof).

Source: Psychological entitlement products non-compliance with COVID-19 health guidelines, study finds, Eric Dolan, PsyPost. And Psychological entitlement linked to defiance of COVID-19 rules via perceptions of unfairness, study finds, Eric Dolan, PsyPost.

Date: March 1, 2021

Photo Credit:  Photo by Skylar Kang from Pexels

Article Link: https://www.psypost.org/2020/11/psychological-entitlement-predicts-non-compliance-with-covid-19-health-guidelines-study-finds-58508

And

https://www.psypost.org/2021/03/psychological-entitlement-linked-to-defiance-of-covid-19-rules-via-perceptions-of-unfairness-study-finds-59860

So, how does the basic definition of entitlement work for you? “A personality characteristic whereby an individual feels more deserving of positive outcomes than other people.” Perhaps that feels a bit to reductionistic, by which I mean that like the old research on instincts it may not be helpful to name a new instinct, or in this case, a new personality dimension, to explain any observed patterns of social behavior. This may be true but, consider the piles of research on the Just World hypothesis that is built on the research documented tendency for us to hold tightly to the idea that bad things happen to bad people and as such bad things will not happen to us (good people). It is a small step from that mindset to the more individually focused concept of entitlement and the ways it may be seen to play out for individuals in the context of the set of global threats that make up the Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps entitled behavior is primarily self-defensive behavior. Though it is not simple as noted by the researchers who found that telling people high on entitlement that they could reduce their risk by complying with public health guidelines. An interesting and important problem to ponder as the pandemic is not over and who know when there might be another and behavior that seem to reflect entitlement will not go away by themselves.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is entitlement and how do we recognize it when we see or hear it socially?
  2. How do high levels on entitlement influence people’s observance of public health guidelines?
  3. What sorts of interventions or approaches might reduce the influence of entitlement and increase adherence with public health guidelines? Are there things that could be done at a general social level rather than trying to find and change entitled individuals>

References (Read Further):

Zitek, E. M., & Schlund, R. J. (2020). Psychological entitlement predicts noncompliance with the health guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Personality and individual differences, 110491. Link

Li, H. (2021). Follow or not follow?: The relationship between psychological entitlement and compliance with preventive measures to the COVID-19. Personality and Individual Differences, 174, 110678. Link

Kittel, B., Kalleitner, F., & Schiestl, D. W. (2021). Avoiding a public health dilemma: Social norms and trust facilitate preventive behaviour if individuals perceive low COVID-19 health risks. Link

Lee, A., Schwarz, G., Newman, A., & Legood, A. (2019). Investigating when and why psychological entitlement predicts unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 154(1), 109-126. Link

Lange, J., Redford, L., & Crusius, J. (2019). A status-seeking account of psychological entitlement. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(7), 1113-1128. Link

Hart, W., Tortoriello, G. K., & Richardson, K. (2019). Deprived and grandiose explanations for psychological entitlement: Implications for theory and measurement. Journal of personality assessment. Link

Zitek, E. M., & Jordan, A. H. (2019). Psychological entitlement predicts failure to follow instructions. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 10(2), 172-180. Link

Holderness Jr, D. K., Olsen, K. J., & Thornock, T. A. (2017). Who are you to tell me that?! The moderating effect of performance feedback source and psychological entitlement on individual performance. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 29(2), 33-46. Link

Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Language-Thought, Learning, Memory.

Description: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky (both psychologists) won the Nobel Prize in economics for their work on biases in human decision making in 2002. More recently, Kahneman wrote a book entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow in which he describes, in detail, the different systems we use when we are thinking quickly and “instinctively” as opposed to when we are thinking more slowly, purposefully and hopefully rationally. There IS survival value in fast thinking. If a bear comes crashing out of the bush and charging at you it is much better to react quickly and to not waste time reflecting on what type of bear it is or on what the Parks Canada bears country guide might have suggested. So, can you come up with a hypothesis as to why Kahneman’s book is considered required reading (and re-reading) by members of the management and office staff of a number of major league baseball teams? Think about why that might be and then have a read through the article linked below to see what several people who work for major league teams have to say.

Source: This Book is Not About Baseball, But Baseball Teams Swear by It, Joe Lemire, The New York Times.

Date: February 24, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Article Link: https://getpocket.com/explore/item/why-it-pays-to-be-grumpy-and-bad-tempered?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Have you seen the Clint Eastwood film “Trouble with the Curve?” One of the story lines focuses on the tensions between the “old” ways of scouting baseball prospects by going and watching them play and the “new way” of looking closely and only at prospects’ numbers, their playing statistics. In the film (spoiler alert, but not surprisingly) the old ways do a lot better, at least in the case of the prospect that the film focusses on, the one who has trouble hitting curve balls. In contrast with message of the film, the application of Kahneman and Tversky’s work to the task of selecting prospects in baseball suggests that the challenge can actually be to get past what your eyes are telling you about what a prospect looks like and pay attention to the data you have in hand. If you would like to further explore this approach to baseball team building read Michael Lewis’ book Money Ball.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do mistakes in prosect selection or ordering in Major League Baseball tell us about human cognition?
  2. What does Kahneman’s work and book suggest is the fix for the selection errors or mistakes noted in the previous question?
  3. Does this approach take some of the fun out of baseball or does it actually support merit and diversity among players/prospects?

References (Read Further):

Daniel, K. (2017). Thinking, fast and slow. Link (to whole book)

Gines, S. (2017). Tastes for true talent: How professional baseball scouts define talent and decide who gets to play. Link

Danovitch, J. (2019). Trouble with the Curve: Predicting Future MLB Players Using Scouting Reports. arXiv preprint arXiv:1910.12622. Link

Weller, E. (2020). The Data Revolution: An Examination of the Use of Scouting and Analytics in Major League Baseball Front Offices. Link

Guenter, R. (2018). Exploring the ‘Intangible Player Characteristics’ that Junior Hockey Scouts Consider when Evaluating Draft-Eligible Prospects. Link

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Memory, Neuroscience, Physical Changes In Aging, Physiology, Research Methods.

Description: When I first started teaching introductory psychology a few decades ago I used to tell students that they had most of the largest number of brain neurons they would ever have at the time they were born. After their birth the number of brain cells dropped due to things like attrition and pruning (neurons that do not get recruited into networks die off). I would usually add that alcohol kills brain cells and so they should perhaps be careful about how much they drank as they were not growing any new brain cells. I stopped offering that particular lecture segment a few years in for two reasons. First, I found and added to my social psychology lectures a section on the powerful positive effect of providing baseline information to students on drinking rates. Students with problem levels of drinking tend to think other students drink as much or more than they do but if you show them the actual data indicating that most students drink less than them, they cut back on their drinking. So, I no longer needed the “drink responsibly” tweak in the section on the brain. Second, I started to run across research talking about the few areas in the brain where new brain cells are generated throughout life. This is particularly true in the hippocampus where it is thought that the ongoing generation of new cells (by the action od stem cells) may play a central role in memory. So, saying one has all the brain cells one is every going to get at birth is not entirely true. If the generation of new cells is important to memory, then might the decline in the rate of that generation associated with aging might be of concern? If so, then if would important if it turned out that there was an identifiable mechanism that drives stem cells to generate brain cells especially if we were to figure out how to limit the decline of that function with age. Have a rad through the article linked below to se how far along researchers are in this important line in enquiry.

Source: Reactivating aging stem cells in the brain, ScienceDaily.

Date: February 24, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210224113059.htm

So, it may not be very long before a lamin B1 treatment or perhaps even a lamin B1 supplement could be generally available. Of course, we have quite way to go to get from the mouse-based research results in the linked study to human treatments, but it is very encouraging that we now seem to have some clear ideas about a treatment vector that may be quite useful. Yes, more research is needed but the list of memory linked neuro degenerative conditions and diseases is long and daunting and the results discussed in the linked article are intriguing and encouraging, with further research and developments well worth following.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are stem cells and what do they do in the brain?
  2. Why might the generation of new neurons in the areas of the brain associated with memory be important to memory processes?
  3. What are some of the steps that will need to be taken if we are to move the results of the research discussed in the linked article in the direction of helping those (humans) with degenerative memory related disorders and conditions?

References (Read Further):

bin Imtiaz, M. K., Jaeger, B. N., Bottes, S., Machado, R. A., Vidmar, M., Moore, D. L., & Jessberger, S. (2021). Declining lamin B1 expression mediates age-dependent decreases of hippocampal stem cell activity. Cell Stem Cell. Abstract Link

Gattinoni, L., Speiser, D. E., Lichterfeld, M., & Bonini, C. (2017). T memory stem cells in health and disease. Nature medicine, 23(1), 18-27. Link

Yu, D. X., Di Giorgio, F. P., Yao, J., Marchetto, M. C., Brennand, K., Wright, R., … & Gage, F. H. (2014). Modeling hippocampal neurogenesis using human pluripotent stem cells. Stem cell reports, 2(3), 295-310. Link

Bonaguidi, M. A., Song, J., Ming, G. L., & Song, H. (2012). A unifying hypothesis on mammalian neural stem cell properties in the adult hippocampus. Current opinion in neurobiology, 22(5), 754-761. Link

Lewis, M. A., & Neighbors, C. (2006). Social norms approaches using descriptive drinking norms education: A review of the research on personalized normative feedback. Journal of American College Health, 54(4), 213-218. Link

Neighbors, C., Larimer, M. E., & Lewis, M. A. (2004). Targeting misperceptions of descriptive drinking norms: efficacy of a computer-delivered personalized normative feedback intervention. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 72(3), 434. Link

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Consciousness, Health Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Try this statement on for size. The way we think, the way we focus our attention, the way we organize and reflect upon our thoughts are, in large part, best thought of as adaptations to the world we are living in (the physical AND the social world). Does that make sense? OK, now, how much of the way we think, then, is due to the world or typical daily environment we find ourselves in? I suspect you might only be prepared to say something like “well maybe a little bit” because we like to think we are in charge of our thinking (at least as adults), right? How might we test the strength of this “I am in charge” assertion? Well, how about instigating a seismic shift in our environments, in the world we subjectively experience and reflect upon? That would not be ethical you say? Well, that is what you should say! However, the current Covid-19 pandemic has no ethics and it has significantly changed the world we are experiencing day-to-day and while we would like to think that we are able to “see” and factor those changes into our thought processes we are actually experiencing a great deal of uncertainty (unknowns) and those can trigger anxiety and hypervigilance without our being aware of the triggers themselves (because they are uncertain and unknowns). What do we do in such situations? We search for distractors, we miss the “noise” of our previous typical, “normal” day-to-day lives and we do NOT spend much if any time simply being with, reflecting upon, pour thoughts. Quite a natural experiment and quite a test of our ability or distinct lack of ability to be mindful. What sort of data is your personal experience with your thoughts and your stress and anxiety so far within the new day-to-day world of the pandemic? How mindful are you? Think about this for a moment and then read the article linked below for a first person case study account of these matters as well as consideration of what it suggests about our mindfulness these days.

Source: The pandemic is worsening negative thought patterns, but with mindfulness we can help the mind help itself, Aileen Lalor, The Globe and Mail.

Date: February 26, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-the-pandemic-is-worsening-negative-thought-patterns-but-with/

So, how did your inventory of your mental activities these days go? Do you think you need to do some work on mindfulness and would doing so help you adapt more effectively to your subjective world as it is today? From the times decades ago where we were all being told we needed to learn how to and to practice multitasking in order to adapt to the increasing busy and changing world we were living in then we are now being told that it might be a good idea to find some ways to mentally back away from the “noise” of our day-to-day lives these days. Mindfulness has never been more important. Find some time and quiet space and be with your thoughts for a bit on a regular basis. It will put you more in charge of your thoughts and, through that, more in charge of the anxieties and uncertainties that you likely have more of today than you are really fully aware of.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How aware of your day-to-day patterns of thought (how mindful are you)?
  2. What are some things that you noticed that you are doing that are similar to those busy making things the article’s author noted in her own experience?
  3. What role can mindfulness practice play in how we adapt to the day-to-day or subjective world around us these days and into the future?

References (Read Further):

Bos, Julie (2020) Soaring Screen Time, Vision Monday, Link

Gotink, R. A., Meijboom, R., Vernooij, M. W., Smits, M., & Hunink, M. M. (2016). 8-week mindfulness based stress reduction induces brain changes similar to traditional long-term meditation practice–a systematic review. Brain and cognition, 108, 32-41. Link

Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83. Link

Hunt, M. G., Marx, R., Lipson, C., & Young, J. (2018). No more FOMO: Limiting social media decreases loneliness and depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37(10), 751-768. Link

Bostock, S., Crosswell, A. D., Prather, A. A., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of occupational health psychology, 24(1), 127. Link

Donald, J. N., Sahdra, B. K., Van Zanden, B., Duineveld, J. J., Atkins, P. W., Marshall, S. L., & Ciarrochi, J. (2019). Does your mindfulness benefit others? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of the link between mindfulness and prosocial behaviour. British Journal of Psychology, 110(1), 101-125. Link

Baer, R., Crane, C., Miller, E., & Kuyken, W. (2019). Doing no harm in mindfulness-based programs: conceptual issues and empirical findings. Clinical psychology review, 71, 101-114. Link

Britton, W. B. (2019). Can mindfulness be too much of a good thing? The value of a middle way. Current opinion in psychology, 28, 159-165. Link

Posted by & filed under Cultural Variation, Learning, Neuroscience, Sensation-Perception, Sensory-Perceptual Development.

Description: Quickly consider and respond to this question. Of all your senses, which is the most important to you and which is the least important to you? Odd are VERY strong that you put smell at the bottom of the list as your least important and the one you would offer up if you had to pick one sense to lose. Historically this has always been the case. As a species we tend not to see ourselves as having an adept sense of smell, especially when compared to our dogs who can smell a BBQ in progress from a great distance (like, 20 kms!!) off. I have to admit to contributing to this sensory disregard. When I am teaching a section on sensation and perception in an introductory psychology class, I spend little or no time on smell (though we DO cover it inn our textbook!). Well, guess which sense is having its moment in the sun as it were? Perhaps you hear something about the HUGE number of complaints makers of scented candles were getting, starting last spring, that their products were defective and had no scent at all. Would it surprise you to hear that the sudden inexplicable loss of smell is actually the BEST symptomatic predictor of Covid-19 infection far better than cough temperature or stuffy nose? Yes indeed, smell is VERY important. And how doe Covid cause this loss of smell? Well, I won’t ask you to hypothesize as, like me, I suspect your knowledge of the olfactory system and brain-based smell processing areas is minimal at best and likely marginal if not non-existent. Instead, read the article linked below or use the second link to listen to an audio podcast version of the article to find out how this meteoric rise to sensory super stardom proceeded for out previously lowly sense of smell.

Source: What Can Covid-19 Teach Us About the Mysteries of Smell? Brooke Jarvis, The New York Times Magazine.

Date: January 31, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/28/magazine/covid-smell-science.html or listen to a podcasted version here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/31/podcasts/the-daily/coronavirus-loss-of-smell-anosmia.html

So, are you now amazed and entertained by the new importance of our sense of smell? The number of people worldwide who are hanging closely on current research about the timing or the extent of the recovery of smell after Covid infection is vast. It is a huge shot in the arm (metaphorically speaking) for researchers like the author of the linked article who study human smell. While we may not apologize we (and especially people like myself who underplayed my opportunities to talk about human smell and research into it) do smell research, smell researchers and our own sense of smell a GREAT DEAL more respect.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How has the human sense of smell been viewed historically?
  2. How does the loss of sense of smell compare to other self-reported symptoms of Covid-19 infection?
  3. What do you know now about the ways we process smell that you did not know before you read or listen to this article and has what you read or heard changed where you would rank smell in relation to your other senses?

References (Read Further):

Young, Ed (2015) Why do Most Languages Have So Few Words for Smells? The Atlantic. Link

Gerkin, R. C., Ohla, K., Veldhuizen, M. G., Joseph, P. V., Kelly, C. E., Bakke, A. J., … & Group, G. C. C. R. (2020). The best COVID-19 predictor is recent smell loss: a cross-sectional study. MedRxiv. Link

Parma, V., Ohla, K., Veldhuizen, M. G., Niv, M. Y., Kelly, C. E., Bakke, A. J., … & Hayes, J. E. (2020). More than smell—COVID-19 is associated with severe impairment of smell, taste, and chemesthesis. Chemical Senses, 45(7), 609-622. Link

McGann, J. P. (2017). Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth. Science, 356(6338). Link

Sorokowski, P., Karwowski, M., Misiak, M., Marczak, M. K., Dziekan, M., Hummel, T., & Sorokowska, A. (2019). Sex differences in human olfaction: A meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 242. Link

Majid, A. (2020). Human Olfaction at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Biology. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Link

Horn, Leslie (2011) Majority of Kids Would Rather Lose Their Sense of Smell Than Lose Facebook, PCMag, Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Psychology, Depression, Group Processes, Health Psychology, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Motivation-Emotion, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: The debates and the research focused upon the impacts of video gaming and social media use on developing children and youth are heated and ongoing. The primary difficulty in sorting out the effects of video gaming and social media use is tied up in the comprehensive nature of their uptake in the population. As it was with similar debates regarding television watching in past decades, the problem is virtually everyone is doing it. If you find children and youth who have little or no screen time, they do not represent a good control group in screen time studies as they are not a good match for the main population. For example, it is frequently reported that upper-level executives in the big four online companies of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon do not allow their children access to social media and smart phones which may well be good for them but certainly would not be a well-matched control group for children and youth growing up in families within the lower 95% of the family income distribution. What to do? Well, one option is to do a longitudinal study with a very large representative sample and that way, at least to some extent, participants would serve as their own controls as the study would follow them over time. To prepare yourself to reflectively read the linked article, think for a moment about possible confounds that could arise when comparing video game or social media use at 11 years of age to self-reported depressive symptoms at 14 years of age. Once you have your thoughts sorted have a read through the article and see what you think of their results and of their appropriately detailed discussion of the challenges of attributing causality in such research.

Source: Boys who play video games have lower depression risk, ScienceDaily.

Date: February 18, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/02/210218201158.htm

One of the most difficult things to do when thinking about the sorts of issues that the research discussed in the linked article examined is that the issues, they are looking at matter to us. Rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm among early teens in North America have surged upward in just the last 10 to 15 years. When an issue matters that much to us (well, and a lot of other times too) we seem to have a bias towards viewing variables or factors that are associated or correlated with the behaviors or symptom collections of concern as causally related to that which is worrying us. It makes some sense to look at what is new (besides the life outcomes of concern) and decide that those things, the video games or social media, MUST be the causes of the things we are concerned about. They may very well be, BUT they may not be the direct or the immediate cause. Boys who play video games may be boys who are fitting in socially while those that do not may be boys who are socially marginalized and perhaps it is the marginalization rather than anything positive to do with the video games that increases rates of depressive symptomology. Similar challenges exist when trying to sort out the relationships between social media use and depressive symptomology among girls. This does NOT mean that we should just give up trying to sort these matters out. The researchers quoted in the linked article lay out a number of variables (such as parenting factors, types and amount of screen time etc.) that, if they are included in subsequent large research surveys, would help sort these causally complex questions out. More research is needed because we need to know more about what is going on in the way of stress, anxiety and depression among young people these days.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does the research discussed in the linked article suggest about the relationship between video gaming at 11 and depression at 14 years of age among boys and girls?
  2. What does the research discussed in the linked article suggest about the relationship between social media use at 11 and depression at 14 years of age among boys and girls?
  3. What are some of the other factors or variables that need to be included in future large scale survey research projects if we are going to get closer to sorting out the causal links among the things being studied?

References (Read Further):

  1. Kandola, N. Owen, D. W. Dunstan, M. Hallgren. (2021) Prospective relationships of adolescents’ screen-based sedentary behaviour with depressive symptoms: the Millennium Cohort Study. Psychological Medicine, 2021; 1 Summary Link

Kelly, Y., Zilanawala, A., Booker, C., & Sacker, A. (2018). Social media use and adolescent mental health: Findings from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. EClinicalMedicine, 6, 59-68. Link

Etchells, P. J., Gage, S. H., Rutherford, A. D., & Munafò, M. R. (2016). Prospective investigation of video game use in children and subsequent conduct disorder and depression using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. PloS one, 11(1), e0147732. Link

Vidal, C., Lhaksampa, T., Miller, L., & Platt, R. (2020). Social media use and depression in adolescents: a scoping review. International Review of Psychiatry, 32(3), 235-253. Link

Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among US adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3-17. Link

Heffer, T., Good, M., Daly, O., MacDonell, E., & Willoughby, T. (2019). The longitudinal association between social-media use and depressive symptoms among adolescents and young adults: An empirical reply to Twenge et al.(2018). Clinical Psychological Science, 7(3), 462-470. Link

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Social Perception, Social Psychology, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: Have you heard of something called the General Adaptation system (GAS)? Hans Selye (1907-1982) working at McGill University in Montreal was trying to find a model with which he could use rats to study the impact of longer-term exposure to moderate to high levels of stress. What he came up with as a rat analogue to human ongoing moderate to high stress did not involve high pressure jobs, bad habits, financial pressure or relationship distress (hard to do that with rats) but instead involved moving rats into a permanently cold environment. He put them in large fridges. What he observed over time in the rats is what he called the GAS. The rats displayed and alarm reaction when first placed in the cold environment. They dashed about trying to find a way out of the cold, showed high levels of stress hormones and were clearly acutely stressed. After a few days they settled down a bit into what Selye called a resistance phase in which they continued to show elevated levels of a number of stress indicators that were not as high as those seen in the alarm phase but were, still, higher than their baseline pre-cold levels. Eventually many of the rats entered what Selye called an exhaustion phase in which their immune systems faltered, and they become ill and some even died. We would now say the rats in this last phase of the GAS were burning out. Why does this bit of stress research history have to say that is relevant? Well, what do you think might happen if one were to take a global population of humans and hit them with a pandemic, the response to which would involve a prolonged period of hypervigilance, social isolation and massive disruptions to “usually” patterns of work, recreation, and life in general? Think about what sorts of symptoms we might be seeing if you were to think of us all as participating in a human version of Selye’s rats in a fridge experience and think about what that might give rise to and about what we might suggest that people do in order to preserver and to get to the post-covid era (whatever that will look like and whenever that will be) intact and with some stress buffers remaining viable. They have a rad through the linked article to see how your thought match those of the author.

Source: It’s Not Just You. A Lot of Us Are Hitting a Pandemic Wall Right Now. Julia Ries, Huffington Post.

Date: February 5, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/coronavirus-pandemic-wall-mental-health_l_601b3c9dc5b6c0af54d09ccb

One of the biggest challenges to coping these days does not involve the many threats and stressors that we can point to including health concerns for ourselves and relatives and friends, work stress, food instability, loneliness etc. It involves the massive amounts of uncertainty associated with the limitations and losses we incur personally as we isolate and socially distance. Stressors are easier to cop with if we can point to them and name them. Uncertainties are insidious in that we cannot see them, may not even be consciously aware of them and yet we are thrown and kept off balance by them in ways that contribute to the onset of burnout.

So, what to do? Notice the uncertainties in your life right now. Name them, to the extent that you can and cut yourself some slack as you are experiencing a consistently higher than usual level of stress/anxiety related arousal. Try some of the advice offered in the article and at least remember that our fight-flight stress response system is deeply wired in and some recreational physical activity – exercise will really help.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways that the current pandemic is like rats in Hans Selye’s fridges?
  2. Make a list of your current stresses and anxieties and then try to make a list of your uncertainties. What can you do to either reduce the things of all three lists or to at least make them more manageable?
  3. What are some things we could do at the community or more broadly at the national or international levels to reduce the stresses, anxieties and uncertainties associated with the pandemic??

References (Read Further):

Koutsimani, P., Montgomery, A., & Georganta, K. (2019). The relationship between burnout, depression, and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 284. Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coping with Stress Link

Lindsay Holmes (2020) Got Major Anxiety Right Now? Here Are 6 Cheap Mental Health Resources Link

Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. Link

Selye, H. (1950). Stress. Montreal: Acta, 1955 Link

Neylan, T. C. (1998). Hans Selye and the field of stress research. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 10(2), 230-230. Link

Peters, A., McEwen, B. S., & Friston, K. (2017). Uncertainty and stress: Why it causes diseases and how it is mastered by the brain. Progress in neurobiology, 156, 164-188. Link

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Assessment: Interviewing Observation, Health Psychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Psychological Intervention, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Stress Coping - Health, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: How do you deal with someone who you believe is completely unreasonable? Well, one possible answer that makes a lot of sense is simply to not deal with them at all. Who needs the stress and the headaches associated with trying to take on an unreasonable person and try to get them to BE reasonable and change their mind? Well sometimes, the issue involved is too important to allow you to walk away from the unreasonable person. Leaving recent American impeachment proceedings aside (as a Canadian I prefer to walk away from those or to at least view them as a form of cautionary theatre) a more global issue over the coming days and months will be the uptake of the various COVID-19 vaccines that are finally rolling out. Around 39% of Americans are saying that they are definitely pr probably NOT going to be vaccinated. 25% of Canadians worry that the vaccines may not be totally safe and 22% say they will not get the vaccine out of safety concerns and concerns over rollout management. Those sorts of percentages raise questions as to whether or how quickly we wil reach the levels of vaccinated protection needed to allow us some degree of confidence that the pandemic has been reined in. So, image that you have a friend who has indicated that they have decided not to get vaccinated and imagine that you have decided to try and change their mind on that subject. How would you proceed? Let’s leave making it illegal not to get vaccinated off the table. Think about how you would attempt to get your “unreasonable” friend to change their mind, assuming, of course, that you do not agree with them. Once you have your plan in mind read the article linked below which is written by an Industrial/Organizational psychologists who has done research on motivating people to change their minds and who actually has a friend who is leaning hard towards NOT getting vaccinated or having his children vaccinated against the corona virus.

Source: The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People, Adam Grant, The New York Times.

Date: January 31, 2021

Photo Credit:  Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/31/opinion/change-someones-mind.html

So, the brute force approach to changing someone else’s mind on an issue that you see as very important not just to yourself but to general public health and wellbeing does not generally work very well. The description of Motivational Interviewing and the discussion of how it could possibly be applied to your interactions with your friend over the matter in vaccination is well laid out makes sense. Research in a great many areas (see the list of further readings) has demonstrated that is a very effective way to get people to decide to make and to actually implement personal change. Perhaps we should all pay attention to the suggestions offered as we start to come up against individuals or groups who are part of the not insubstantial portion of the population who are opposed to getting vaccinated. Doing so will help us deal with the current public health crisis and it will potentially help us to back away from some of the other descriptors that we typically associate with unreasonable (such as stubborn, unintelligent, stupid, crazy, or delusional) even if we don’t say them out loud. We could all be better off for it, research suggests.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How would you approach or argue with a friend who told you that they were not going to get vaccinated against Covid-19?
  2. What is Motivational Interviewing and what does it involve?
  3. How might the suggested advantages of Motivational interviewing in relation to getting more people to get vaccinated be put into place (in addition to you using it with your friends)?

References (Read Further):

Rubak, S., Sandbæk, A., Lauritzen, T., & Christensen, B. (2005). Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British journal of general practice, 55(513), 305-312. Link

Heckman, C. J., Egleston, B. L., & Hofmann, M. T. (2010). Efficacy of motivational interviewing for smoking cessation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tobacco control, 19(5), 410-416. Link

Armstrong, M. J., Mottershead, T. A., Ronksley, P. E., Sigal, R. J., Campbell, T. S., & Hemmelgarn, B. R. (2011). Motivational interviewing to improve weight loss in overweight and/or obese patients: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Obesity reviews, 12(9), 709-723. Link

Resnick, Brian (2020) How to talk someone out of bigotry, VOX, Jan 29, 2020 Link

Boodman, Eric (2019) The vaccine whisperers: Counselors gently engage new parents before their doubts harden into certainty, StatNews, Link

Gagneur, A., Lemaître, T., Gosselin, V., Farrands, A., Carrier, N., Petit, G., … & De Wals, P. (2018). A postpartum vaccination promotion intervention using motivational interviewing techniques improves short-term vaccine coverage: PromoVac study. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 1-8. Link

Lemaitre, T., Carrier, N., Farrands, A., Gosselin, V., Petit, G., & Gagneur, A. (2019). Impact of a vaccination promotion intervention using motivational interview techniques on long-term vaccine coverage: the PromoVac strategy. Human vaccines & immunotherapeutics, 15(3), 732-739. Link

Itzchakov, G., DeMarree, K. G., Kluger, A. N., & Turjeman-Levi, Y. (2018). The listener sets the tone: High-quality listening increases attitude clarity and behavior-intention consequences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(5), 762-778. Link

Magill, M., Gaume, J., Apodaca, T. R., Walthers, J., Mastroleo, N. R., Borsari, B., & Longabaugh, R. (2014). The technical hypothesis of motivational interviewing: A meta-analysis of MI’s key causal model. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 82(6), 973. Link